I was kept busy, given something important to do. That was a good thing, I suppose. It gave me a little bit of detachment from what was going on. Just a little bit, though. Just enough.
This was in August. My sister, Dina, asked me to use my camcorder to tape her son's funeral. Not because she thought that she might ever actually get up the nerve to watch it again, but instead because she didn't want it to just be over and done with. As funerals usually are so wont to do.
There's a funny thing about that request Dina made. She could have the filled-in the blank in the phrase, "Please __________ Cory's funeral," with anything at all, and I cannot imagine any possible thing that I would have refused, or even hesitated at.
Please streak at Cory's funeral.
Please sing "I Am Woman" at Cory's funeral.
Please smear peanut butter all over yourself, and make a pass at every woman over 60 at Cory's funeral.
Please pretend to be homeless, and beg for change at Cory's funeral.
I'd have done any or all of those things, if she'd asked on that day. But, distracted as she was, she didn't ask me to do anything embarrassing like that. She missed out on that golden opportunity. She just asked me to tape the thing. So that's what I did.
I stood over near a wall, out of the traffic and near an electrical outlet. Lacking a tripod, I put my camcorder in my left hand. And I held it there for an hour. My arm got pretty sore near the end, but that was the price I was paying. That price was, of course, nothing compared to that which Dina was paying, so I stood my ground and I did my favor for my sister.
The chaplain, a cousin of ours, conducted his somber service. Cory's friends from school played songs and sang. Some of them got up and talked for a bit. Relatives that I didn't even know existed - such as Cory's stepsister - got up and talked for a bit.
That, in particular, tore at me. I so wanted to fling my camera to the ground and somehow carry that poor girl away from the terrible new reality in which she'd suddenly found herself. But, I didn't. I had something important to do. I had to tape the thing.
Each time, after someone would speak, the chaplain would wait for a bit to see if there was anyone else who wanted to say anything. The room would be quiet, as we all waited to see if someone would stand up and walk forward.
I don't know if anyone really expected it to happen. I know that I certainly didn't. Someone finished speaking. The chaplain waited. The room was quiet. A couple of soft sobs off to my right, where Cory's closest friends sat. An incongruous giggle way off to my left, at the back of the room. But that was it.
As quiet as it was already, that was nothing compared to what happened next. It was as if silence became a force, a fog that enveloped the entire room in a matter of a few seconds. The same few seconds, in fact, that it took for my sister Dina to stand up and walk to the pulpit.
I don't remember what she said. I could, I suppose, go downstairs right now and watch my recording. My camera hasn't moved since a couple of days after the funeral, when I burned DVDs for those who wanted them. But I'm not ready to watch the thing. Maybe, some day, I will.
I don't remember what she said, because I wasn't paying attention anymore. Not to what was being said, anyway. I'd caught, in my eye, via the screen on my camcorder, I'd caught sight of something surreal and awe-inspiring. A mother, my sister, standing near her son's lifeless body, somehow managing to stay strong enough to breathe, and stand, and walk, and speak.
I have never been so proud of another person. It was very nearly paralyzing to me, the force of emotion that hit me when Dina started speaking. I remember thinking, There's no way I could ever be that strong. No way at all.
I've been through some shit in my life, but nothing compared to that. I would have crumbled into dust.
I've often said, especially since that day in August, that my sister is the strongest person that I've ever known..
And that's why I say it.